Migrating to the cloud can feel like a huge undertaking. When done right, though, it can be gratifying.
When deciding on what to migrate, it’s best to have a cloud migration roadmap that aligns with your business strategy. This roadmap must also prioritize business assets and workloads based on value.
This goes for businesses of all types, whether those organizations provide consumer services, products or business services, says Raj Bala, senior research director at Gartner. “Moving to cloud without a cloud strategy results in ad hoc adoption patterns, resulting in higher costs, disjointed management, security vulnerabilities and overall dissatisfaction with cloud outcomes.”
Here is how to prioritize assets, applications and workloads in your cloud migration roadmap using a values-driven approach.
Defining Clear Business Goals
A successful migration defines the “why” of the project as well as the “how.” Doing this means spending time to understand what assets have the most value for the company, then using that knowledge to define the migration roadmap.
“Cloud migration isn’t a one-and-done proposition,” write Ben Hagai and Kuntal Mitra at Google Cloud. “To succeed, it requires careful analysis, planning, and execution of a comprehensive organizational and technical strategy that meets your overall business goals.”
The Oliver Wyman team notes that some of the most common such goals include:
- Cost savings on IT infrastructure.
- Time-to-market advantages.
- Positioning the company for tech innovation.
Add to this list scalability and security. Some companies find their growth is restricted by their on-premises infrastructures. Others find that such infrastructure creates security vulnerabilities.
Whatever the case, make sure that every single application and workload you plan to migrate to the cloud has a business case to justify that move. This means going application by application to assess its business value. “This level of due diligence will help bring to light which applications should earn a higher priority because they will deliver a faster return on investment,” the team at NTT DATA Services writes.
“For example, by assessing the business impact of an application and the business risk associated with revenue and operations, you can determine which of the ‘6 Rs’ (rehost, replatform, refactor, repurchase, retire or retain) is the best approach. Ultimately, you’ll want to maximize cloud benefits for those applications that impact the business the most.”
A key aspect of this work is finding where IT and business objectives align. The overall company strategy, then, must account for near- and long-term cloud migration goals, the team at information security company Cadre writes. “A cloud mitigation strategy is necessary to successfully and effectively move your business to the cloud or existing networks.”
Defining the Business Value of Each Asset
Here is where business strategy fits into the migration roadmap.
Within the context of your larger business goals, examine each application and workload to assess its business value. Danske IT’s Sandeep Tol notes that “value” in this case could mean its role in generating revenue or providing analytics or supporting operations.
Tol suggests looking at any of the following factors in your assessment:
- The asset’s alignment with business strategy.
- The current benefits the asset provides.
- Whether it has redundant or duplicate functions in other applications.
- The number of users who rely on it, and their level of satisfaction with it.
The bottom line: Only migrate where there is business value. Once you’re done with your asset inventory and cloud audit, you might be surprised to discover that some third-party applications and systems do not offer business value for migration.
Migration Priorities and Sequence
Once you have clarity on the business value of each application and asset, your next step is to prioritize the components of the migration.
There are a variety of methods for setting these priorities. For example, companies could choose to prioritize by size. The smallest applications tend to be some of the easiest to migrate. Getting early wins in a migration can help teams build momentum for later stages, when the work can get more difficult.
A better approach, however, would be to classify applications as business-critical or material. Frank Della Rosa at IDC describes this in a July 2020 whitepaper. Unlike business-critical applications, material applications are those whose absence would cause disruptions or inconvenience for customers, but not fundamentally impact business operations.
From there, Della Rosa says, migration priorities could take into account the complexities of a given application, and that application’s relationships with other tools. The more enmeshed the application, the harder it will be to migrate.
So, a successful migration sequence might start with applications that are business-critical but easy enough to untether. Next would come the more enmeshed applications. Following that migration would be the material applications, again in order of complexity.
This still depends on how the company defines its business values. In other migrations, it might make sense to migrate non-mission critical assets first. A company might choose to migrate an HR portal first, for example. This could affect employees directly, but not customers or everyday business operations.
Waves of Cloud Migration
Ultimately, what happens in a migration is applications and workflows will move to the cloud in waves. Taking a values-driven approach to the migration will ensure that business-critical applications and workflows remain stable during each wave.
“There are a number of advantages to this type of strategy,” the team at Waterfield Technologies writes. “Rather than having to invest a significant amount of time and money into transitioning the company at once, a company can choose the areas that are most important to it. These areas will begin delivering value immediately, leaving the company breathing room to transition its other services later on. Starting small allows the company to test the waters.”
This has two key benefits, they note:
- It lets executives and stakeholders see the value of the migration in real time as new efficiencies are created.
- It lets employees train iteratively on any new technologies.
Further, going wave-by-wave allows you to create repeatable patterns. “Why reinvent the wheel each time you need to move a workload to the cloud?” the NTT DATA Services team writes. “Create a launching pattern that is repeatable, one that you can use on a consistent basis. This will provide peace of mind, knowing that processes have been tried, tested and worked time and again.”
Whether you're planning to migrate to the cloud for a mobile app launch or want to modernize existing applications, a smart cloud strategy should always be in line with business goals and focus on generating top-line impact to the organization.